Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Taking Damage

No plan survives getting hit in the face. How does that work in Mythic Bastionland?


Tal and Moss have decided to stand and fight against a Warband of raiders from a belligerent neighbouring realm. They’ve already taken a little damage from arrow fire. 

Ref: Okay, now it’s the Warband’s turn. As you’re both individual combatants, they get +d10 and gain Blast, attacking both of you.

Ref rolls d6 and d10 for each target, taking the highest single die against each. The dice against Tal are 4 and 8, the dice against Moss 6 and 6. 

Ref: The horde of attackers surge onto you both as you try to stand firm, spears and axes coming from all directions. Tal is looking at 8 damage, and Moss 6. Actually, with your armour we can knock that down to 7 and 5 respectively. 

Tal: I’ll stand as firm as I can, using Endure to remove the 8 rolled.

Ref: Sure, so you gain Ache from the exhaustion but manage to deflect the worst blows away. That leaves the roll of 4, down to 3 with your armour. 

Tal: Wait, can I use Endure twice? I have two Burdens now. 

Ref: Yeah you can, but remember at 3 Burdens you become Exposed, so you’d go down to 0gd and couldn’t use more Feats. 

Tal: Right, let’s not do that then. 

Ref: So you’ve got 3 damage coming in against 2gd and 11 VIG. With your Guard depleted you’re wounded, losing 1 VIG. One spear strikes just well enough to draw blood. Meanwhile, Moss, you’re also on two Burdens, but using Endure once won’t actually help. You’re on 2gd and 6 VIG, right?

Moss: Yeah…

Ref: 5 Damage means 2 to your gd and the remaining 3 off your VIG. As you’ve lost half of your VIG in one go that means a Mortal Wound. Moss is overwhelmed by the Warband, kicked to the ground, an axe buried in their gut. They’ll die if left untended, and I wouldn’t expect mercy from these raiders. What’s the plan?


Keeping your Knight alive involves managing a few different resources. Armour and Guard are the first lines of defence, with Vigour and Burdens (usually taken from using Endure) as more precious resources. 

The Referee has to balance keeping the players are aware of these while also indulging their senses in the description of the actual battle. Too much focus on numbers and resources and it becomes just a dice game, too little and you risk the players not being able to make informed choices on how to proceed with the fight. 

Ref strikes a decent balance here, but as I’m writing this for an example of play, there’s perhaps more explicit explanation of the numbers than I would expect at the table. 

As a general procedure I describe what the attacker is doing, roll their dice out in the open, give a chance for the Knights to use Endure or other feats to modify those dice, and then tell the player how much damage they’ve taken. 

The player can then report back whether the attack caused a Wound (VIG loss) or Mortal Wound (half of current VIG lost), and I can describe the attack and its impact accordingly, shifting the focus back to what’s actually happening to the characters. 

As players get more experienced they’ll feel more confident weighing up their options when faced with damage. The dilemma faced by Tal here is a good example. They could have used Endure a second time to prevent damage altogether, so going down to 0gd would actually be a slightly better position than where they ended up here.

Still, that extra Burden would linger after the combat is finished, leaving them effectively on 0gd until they can relieve at least one Burden somehow. 

More urgently, keeping that final Burden slot free might allow a use of Endure later on in this combat, perhaps to prevent taking a Mortal Wound themselves, or could be used to attack with a Frenzy, being more effective against the enemy warband. 

Still, I’m not optimistic about their chances in this situation. Perhaps a chance to consider whether surrender is Knightly.


Art by Midjourney

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

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Wednesday, 17 May 2023

What is Primacy of Action?

 Here's what the rules of Mythic Bastionland have to say:

Even when using the rules for travel, exploration, and combat, remember this, the  most important thing:
Past action taken by the players supersedes  content generated by prompts or rules. Their deeds are reality.
Remember the core of giving players information, honouring their choices, and describing the impact of their actions. 

But I think it needs a bit more explanation. This is where Oddpocrypha comes in handy. 


The group encounter an Omen of the Troll, which the book describes as a clumsy burglar fleeing from the Troll’s cave-house. 

Ref: Running away from the cave you see a figure. Actually, you recognise her, it’s Sam the burglar.

Ref had previously used Sam as an incidental character, randomly taking them as a prompt when they needed a shady character. By coincidence the same character has now been prompted by an Omen.

Moss: I guess she got over her broken leg?

Ref: Wait, what happened again?

Tal: She got caught trying to break into the Seer’s tower, remember? The guards beat her up and later we found out her leg was broken, but that old woman was looking after her? I think this was after we did the Season change, so can’t have been long ago in game.

Ref: Ah yeah, right…

Slightly awkward pause. 

Ref: No, no, this is fine! Well above anything else, all that stuff you remember definitely happened, but sure enough you see Sam sprinting away from the cave, no sign of a broken leg. Weird huh?

Moss: Huh.

Tal: Okay let’s flag her down and see what’s up.

Meanwhile Ref flicks to a random page scouring the prompts for an explanation. They see “Toxic Plants”, and during the conversation Sam explains that her leg was miraculously healed by a travelling herbalist, but they used methods and materials that nobody in the shire had seen before. 

Ref makes a secret note that these bone-mending methods use toxic plants that are going to spell future trouble for Sam. They plant the seed by having Sam have a small coughing fit in the middle of their conversation before laughing it off. 


Never underestimate the power of saying “yeah, weird huh?” when you slip a massive contradiction into the game by mistake.

Here we see a group running into a situation that calls for Ref to remember the Primacy of Action, essentially the idea that events that have already happened supersede new events that are generated through omens or prompts when establishing the ongoing fiction of the world. 

So if you cut off the Wyvern’s wings then they don’t grow back because the next omen describes it flying above. 

Here it’s a character reappearing in an Omen, doing something that would be unlikely given the events that have already occurred. 

Ref could have just said “okay, it’s NOT actually Sam, but she looks just like her”, though revealing a secret twin is a risky play. 

Remember the whole point of this is to make the world feel real and not to undermine the players’ previous choices. Here the players are well aware that Ref is pulling this new healer tangent out of thin air, but if they deliver it with confidence and make it an  interesting addition to the fiction then the players will take it in their stride. 

As with other moments of improvisation, it’s best to keep the improvised content as something neither overtly beneficial or harmful to the players. Players accept that improvisation happens, but moments with significant positive or negative impact are best when they feel like part of the impartial mechanisms of the game, rather than something implemented at the whims of the Referee. 

Here, even just flicking to another page of the book to scour for prompts can make the improvised content feel more real to the players, at least spreading the perceived responsibility between the Referee and the book. 


Art by Midjourney

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2023

Mythic Manoeuvres

Combat manoeuvres are something I keep coming back to. 

As with so many things I think the specific mechanics are only as good as their actual implementation by the person running the game. So what guidance lies in the Oddpocrypha?


Moss is in the middle of a duel against a rival Knight that’s been tormenting them.

Moss: Right. So instead of swinging my cudgel I’ll draw my dagger and try to stab him right through the eye.

Ref: Erm… hang on

Ref flicks through the combat rules for a moment, thinking about how best to make a ruling

Ref: Okay, so what are you actually trying to achieve with this? Like kill him in a single stab? Blind him permanently? Temporarily?

Moss: Yeah I want to make sure even if I can’t kill him I’ll leave him without an eye. 

Ref: Right. I mean as far as killing him goes, you’re already trying to do that with a normal attack. You could do a Smite if you really want to try to take him out, but if it’s more about leaving a lasting mark we could… hang on…

Ref looks through the rules a bit more

Ref: Yeah how about we do it as a Smite but instead of the extra damage you’ll leave a mark. Probably only makes sense if you actually Wound him too, so you’ll need to take him down to 0gd. I don’t think you could do this to any old opponent, but here there’s clearly hatred between the two of you. 

Moss: Yeah that sounds fair. So I’ll only take the Shame if I actually get his eye, right?

Ref: Yeah that sounds right.

Moss rolls their attack and successfully Wounds their enemy.

Ref: So sure enough, you thrust your dagger at his eye and… urgh, you get the idea! He clutches his face, screaming, but he’s still standing. 


Even with access to Feats and Onslaughts, and the chance of causing Scars, players will sometimes want to cause a specific effect with their attack. Here Ref falls back on the standard Taking Action Procedure, asking for clarity on what exactly the intent of the action is. It’s easy to get bogged down in the specifics of what the character is doing, but here it’s useful to know what the player is actually trying to achieve. 

It’s good that Ref clarifies that with a normal attack the character is already assumed to be trying to cause maximum harm to their target, and going beyond that is usually covered with a Smite Feat. Taking this as a starting point, they change that Feat to apply extra long-term damage instead of simply improving the normal damage of the attack. 

Importantly, the details of the ruling are explained to Moss before they confirm they want to go through with it. Upon weighing up the ruling, a player might decide it’s no longer worth it. At this point the Referee can suggest an alternative, or the player might simply decide to go ahead with a normal attack or Feat. 

I also appreciate that Ref made it clear that the ruling here is a bespoke ruling for the current combat, leveraged by the established hatred between the combatants. If the players tried something similar in another situation the ruling could be different. 

There’s clearly a bit of discomfort from Ref in having to describe the eye-gouge. In a game with this much focus on combat, and a system for Scars, there’s always going to be a bit of gore, but it’s perfectly acceptable to draw a veil over the grisly details if the group isn’t fully comfortable with them, as Ref does here. This is something that becomes easier to judge through experience playing with the same group of players. 

Heed the guidance of the Seers. 


Art by Midjourney

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Beginning a Campaign: Start & Scope

Mythic Bastionland has quite a different campaign structure to Into the Odd and Electric Bastionland, so any campaign should start with a short conversation about that. Here's the relevant page from the latest version:


Every group that sits down to play the game is different, and you should consider the Start and Scope of a game before you begin. 

The Start is the opening situation that the players find themselves in, and should always present an interesting world to explore, filled with problems to face. 

The Scope is how far you expect the game to go run in-game and out of game. 

The examples below are not a definitive list.


Petty - Young Petty Knights arriving in a Realm, seeking to uphold their Oath and gain Glory. If they feel lost, advise them to seek a Seer’s counsel. 

Exemplar - Mature Knight Exemplars (Glory 6) with 2d6GD. They have a place in the Court of the Seat of Power. Tell them about the first Omen in each of the Realm’s Myths, delivered as news to the Court. 

Noble - Mature Noble Knights with 2d6GD. The Knight with the highest CHA has a Holding, with the others in their Circle. The Seat of Power is under a wicked influence.


Adventure - One session. Start the game with the group encountering an Omen of the nearest Myth. Turn the Season at the end of the session, seeing who upheld their Oath. 

Chronicle - A known number of sessions, finishing at the end of these. Season and Age turns are planned out ahead of time. For 6 sessions this might be a Season turn at the end of each session, an Age turn at the end of each Winter. 

Saga - An indeterminate number of sessions. Here you can let the players guide the scope as they explore the world. 

And what the Oddpocrypha chapter has to say. 


Ref: Okay we should talk about the Start and Scope of the campaign. For the Start you can be Petty Knights newly knighted and out for glory, Exemplars who are older and have a place in court, or Nobles if you want to start already ruling a seat of power. To be honest that last one sounds a bit much for me at the moment, but we could do either of the others.

Tal: I just assumed we’d be starting out as new Knights, but starting with a place in court could be cool.

Moss: Yeah I’m happy with either.

Ref: Well let’s talk about Scope before we lock it in. This is how many sessions we’ll run and how time will advance across them. I know we agreed to run for 6 weeks, so that would fit a Chronicle. We can always carry on afterwards if we’re enjoying it.

Moss: Yeah I’m away for two weeks after that and I think Tal has that other campaign?

Ref: Sure, we’ll do six sessions then. The book suggests each session should end by moving onto the next Season, and at the end of Winter we’ll advance to a new Age, which means advancing like twenty years or so. 

Tal: Right… but what if we end the session right in the middle of something? 

Ref: I mean we don’t have to set it in stone, but things persist between Seasons. Maybe we’ll leave the exact timing of the Age skip loose so that we can do it when it feels right. I think we should push ourselves to move through time though, it’ll be neat to look back on the campaign and have a proper span of your Knights’ lives.

Tal: Okay that makes sense. 

Moss: I guess we try to finish each session in a place that makes sense too, right? Like we won’t end right in the middle of a combat?

Ref: Yeah, and if that happens we can always finish the fight off next session and do the time skip mid-session. It doesn’t take long. 

Tal: Great. Well if we’re doing that shall we start as brand new petty knights?

Moss: Sounds good to me. 


For those used to more traditional campaign structures, the between-session time jumps of Mythic Bastionland can seem daunting. It’s understandable that some players don’t like the idea of releasing control of their characters for these “off camera” months or years that pass during such an advancement. 

Of course, the intent of this rule isn’t to leave players with a lack of control, so here Ref does a good job of reassuring Tal and Moss. 

I think Ref strikes a good balance between keeping plans loose by suggesting some flexibility in when to advance the seasons and ages, but also making it clear that these advances are planned into the campaign, explaining why they want to include them.

I’d possibly be clearer here, telling the group that each session will always be the start of a new season, and deciding ahead of time which session will also advance to the next age. This is no more right or wrong than Ref’s approach here, and comes down to your own preferences and your experience of playing with your group. 

They eventually settle on starting as Petty Knights, which is where I expect the majority of groups to begin their games. Ref even goes as far as to recommend against the most advanced starting point. 

Even if a group is unlikely to want to begin as Exemplars or Nobles, it’s worth highlighting these options at the start of the campaign. Just showing them as possibilities helps players see the likely direction for their knights and gives a bit more context to where they might be after some Seasons and Ages. 


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Trade Without Money

Mythic Bastionland doesn't really use money, or at least it isn't really a game about earning wealth and spending it on better gear.

Only the rich deal in coins. Most trade relies on more practical matters:

  • Finding somebody who can supply
  • Securing raw materials if needed
  • Giving something in return, or owing

The value of any given item depends on the bargaining positions of the person holding it, and the person desiring it. Long-standing trade agreements often form into pledges of ongoing service or protection.

Let's look at how the Oddpocrypha section handles this.


Moss: So we heard there’s some brilliant blacksmith in this castle, right? How about before we go and meet the Lady of the Castle we try to get some better gear?

Ref: Sure, down in the maze of passageways beneath the castle you follow the metallic clangs and radiating heat of the forge. Sure enough you find a blacksmith hard at work, the walls lined with all manner of arms.

Tal: We said about getting bows, is there a bow on the wall?

Ref: So arms are generally split into Common, Specialist, and Rare.

Ref opens the book for the players and gestures over the list.

Ref: Since this guy is a proper weaponsmith I reckon they’ve got plenty of Common stockpiled, and some Specialist and Rare tucked away in storage or made to order.

Tal: Wait how much money do we have?

Ref: You have a bit, but big bags of money are for rich merchants. You’re knights! You need three things to make a trade: somebody who can supply the thing, raw materials if needed, and something to give in return.

Moss: Okay, let’s see what this Blacksmith’s deal is first.

The group play out a conversation with the Blacksmith, who seems fiercely loyal to the Lady of the Castle.

Tal: Okay, well we’re here to help the Lady, so could we take a couple of bows?

Moss: Wait, I also want a proper sword.

Ref: The Smith happily pulls some bows off the wall and hands them to you, a quiver of  arrows each.

Tal: Actually why would a blacksmith have bows? Are they metal bows?

Ref: I guess this is also just a general weapon store. When you ask about the swords he seems less open. “I’ll have to speak to the Lady about that, I’m sure you understand”

Moss: Okay, all the more important we make a good impression.


Playing a game without tracking of currency or abstract wealth ratings is an adjustment for most players. The intent was to get players into more of a feudal mindset, where longstanding exchanges of service, labour, protection, and goods make up the majority of trade. Aside from any sense of immersion, this approach encourages players to consider the place of the characters in the world and the network of relationships between non-player characters.

Here we see that in a well-worn scene of RPGs, shopping for weapons.

What does the Blacksmith want? Ref thinks they’re quite content. Working for the Lady  gives them a relatively secure life in the castle. When Knights arrive to help the Lady it seems fitting that the Blacksmith would help up to a certain point, but still ultimately need the Lady’s approval to give out Rare items like swords. The players could have tried to bribe them, but does this Smith really need money? I suspect they wouldn’t be so easily tempted. Instead, as the players learn more about this character, their place in the Castle’s society, and their relationship with the Lady, they might be able to pull their strings a bit more effectively.

Later, Tal points out that maybe the bows should be located elsewhere, as they’re made from wood, not metal. It’s pretty common for players to question apparent errors like this, and shouldn’t be considered malicious.

Instead of immediately hitting undo, consider why the seemingly inconsistent element could be true. Here it’s obvious, but you can create some interesting situations by throwing such queries back at the players.

“Yeah, that is weird, right? Why do you think that could be? Do you want to ask somebody about it or investigate?”

Sometimes they’ll shrug it off, sometimes it’ll set them on a tangent, but wherever possible I like to keep to my word as a Referee, which means we’re sometimes discovering and justifying the details of the world together.


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Wednesday, 12 April 2023

Taking Action

It was a while ago that I wrote this. Since then I'm working with a slightly different procedure. Let's look at the Oddpocrypha entry for it.



Ref: With its walls torn down, the village is now a bit of a sitting duck if the Legion decide to attack again.

Tal: We could stay and guard them but the Seer told us the Legion always comes back in greater numbers, right?

Moss: Yeah, how about we help them build some better defences? 

Ref: Right, right. That would be a Task, so it would take a phase of the day, taking you up to Night. Let me just…

Ref flips to the Taking Action Procedure to remind themselves of the steps.

Ref: Okay, Intent. So what are you actually trying to do? Get the walls back to how they were? Make them even better?

Moss: Could we make them better?

Ref: Well let’s work through the rest of the steps before we commit to that. What’s your Leverage for this? How are you actually going to make it happen?

Tal: The serfs here would be on board with helping with the work, right? Plenty of wood around too.

Ref: Yeah. I mean with the limited skill, materials, and time you have I think the Intent is really going to be limited to getting it patched up as a solid but makeshift wall.

Moss: Fair. 

Ref: Cost… I mean it’s taking up time and the work of the local serfs but they’re already inclined to help out. Stakes… now I don’t think the Legion are coming imminently, so there’s no risk of them showing up before the work is done. That means there’s no need to roll if you’re happy to spend the time on this. 

Tal: Yeah, let’s do it.

Ref: So you gather the serfs and spend the afternoon chopping wood and cobbling together a ramshackle wall. Doesn’t look like much but at least it’s a line of defence against the Legion. The sun sets as you admire your work. 

Moss: Well it’s something but we need a proper plan to beat them for good.


Here we see Ref work through the 6 steps of the Taking Action Procedure: 

Intent, Leverage, Cost, Stakes, Roll, Impact.

It would be lovely if those six words formed a mnemonic, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Even though this ends up being resolved as a Task, shorter Actions follow the same procedure and make the same considerations, except for the fact that Tasks are assumed to consume significant time.

Talking through the specific stages by name is a good way to help internalise the process, but not strictly necessary once the group is comfortable with the process.

Also notable is that Ref feels comfortable leaving the Intent somewhat loose until the group have discussed Leverage. Working through the steps in order doesn’t mean you have to lock everything in as you go. 

I’m glad Ref doesn’t get bogged down in the detail of how long it takes to build a wall, how many workers you need, how much material. No Referee can know all these things, and slowing down the game to brush up on the logistics of wall construction is unlikely to improve the game. Here we’re interested in the fact that the players want to invest time in performing this action, and the impact it has on the ongoing fiction. 

There’s more transparency from Ref than you might expect, outright telling the players that the Legion aren’t coming back today. You want the world to have mystery, but it’s also important to give players the information they need to make their decision. If it was uncertain, Ref might have said “there’s a slim chance the Legion will come back today” or “there’s a high chance the Legion will come back today”, keeping a mental note of the odds they would use on the Luck roll to determine this later.

Giving them certainty here lets them get on with making the decision instead of agonising about something that the Referee knows won’t happen.  


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If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday, 5 April 2023

Getting Rules Wrong

In the most recent Mythic Bastionland update I've added an Oddpocrypha section about Getting Rules Wrong. These sections have a short example of play followed by thoughts on why things went the way they did, what was good, what could have been done differently.

Because this is a topic I don't often see covered, here's that section in full. 


The players have split up briefly. Moss has just been in lone combat, driving a Mighty Newt back into the river.

Ref: Okay, if you’re taking a moment to rest you can restore your Guard back to full, that Vigour damage will be harder to recover. 

Moss: Oof. That thing took away like 4 of my VIG with one bite.

Ref: Wait… Hang on. Your max Vigour is 6 right? If you lost half of that in one attack it should have been a Mortal Wound.

Moss: Oh. I mean I’d probably be dead right, since Tal wasn’t around to help me?

Tal: We can say Tal showed up to help?

Ref: You know what, I don’t think we should go back and change things. The combat went the way it did, we’ll just make sure we remember next time.

Moss: Aah, I dunno, I feel bad. Feels like I’ve cheated.

Tal: I don’t feel cheated!

Moss: No I mean like I should be dead. I want things to be fair. 

Ref: I mean you probably would have used the Endure Feat to avoid the damage if you’d known, right? I think the end result would be the same. Not like you came out without a scratch. If it’s really important then we can roll back and redo the combat. Maybe just go back to right before you took that bite?

Ref scrambles through their notes to try to work out who had taken damage. 

Moss: No, no, you’re right that feels dumb. As long as you both know it was an accident.

Ref: Yeah of course. Hey, first excuse I get this Newt is coming back to finish the job. 


This is going to happen. You might notice immediately, or you might realise months into a campaign that you’ve interpreted a rule differently than the book intended.

The important thing is that you look back and ask yourself what harm has been done.

In most cases the game will have worked just fine. Maybe things will feel better when you start using the correct rule, but I’d warn against going back to try to change the past, even if the consequences would be severe.

When this happens in plain view of the group you can encounter Moss’ reaction here. Some players won’t mind, or might enjoy that they got away with something, but others can feel that the reality of the world has somehow been compromised. 

Ref handled it pretty well here, explaining that the situation probably wouldn’t be all that different with the correct ruling. I  think they were right to offer to roll things back for Moss, but I’m also glad that Moss didn’t take them up on it. I’m not sure what would be gained  by repeating the combat one way or another. 

But what if the opposite had happened. What if Moss had been killed by the Newt, but later realised that the correct rule would have had them live? This is a more difficult situation to manage. Here I’d lean on the principle of being generous to the players, but try to do so without completely invalidating the play that’s already happened. Perhaps Moss was dragged into the water, assumed to be dead, but re-emerged days later. If Moss had already created a new Knight, perhaps that character becomes a non-player character, being a new contact in the realm. 


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Wednesday, 29 March 2023


 Oof, was it really four months ago I last wrote about imperfect examples of play?

Well, I'm finally putting it into practice.

I've got this thing about making my games a self-contained book that doesn't need any additional support. Of course, with RPGs it's common practise to mine ideas from dozens of books and blend them together, but I like the idea that somebody could pick up one of my games and feel like they have everything they need in a single volume.

Rules are the easy part, but I also want to make sure that players have good guidance on how to actually run things, and enough adventure content to get things started.

With Into the Odd there's a few pages of guidance for running the game, a short example of play, and an adventure module with a dungeon, wilderness, and small town. The Oddpendium is just a heap of random tables to gesture broadly at the rest of the world. I wanted this to feel a bit like those box sets where you get your rules and adventure all ready to go. Something you can buy one day and feel like you can sit down and run it that evening. 

Electric Bastionland takes a different approach. Here I wanted guidance and procedures over providing specific library content. Sure there are all the failed careers, but I wanted this book to focus on getting people making their own adventures, their own version of Bastionland. It's all about procedures and principles for the conductor to internalise so that the world will eventually start to just flow out of them. The Oddendum is where I can luxuriate in mini-essays talking about the word, the game, and how to run it, in many ways a greatest-hits of my relevant blogposts over the years. It's not as easy to pick-up-and-go as Into the Odd, but my hope was that once it all clicked people would find it easier an more fun to run. 

In approaching Mythic Bastionland I knew I wanted to do something different. Of course the flavour is different, the focus lies in a different style of play, and the rules have been warped, but I also wanted a new approach to how I'd advise the person running the game. Finally, I'm feeling good about the direction of the game now that I've started to work on the Oddpocrypha section, putting the focus on a large bank of examples of play, each accompanied by notes breaking down what happened, why, and how things could have been done differently. 

There are a few in the playtest doc right now, but I'm aiming to have this be a significant chunk of the book.

Here's how one of them might look, followed by the text itself.



Ref: So in this game you’re both Knights, but you’ll have different strengths and weaknesses. Start by rolling your Ability Scores. They’re Vigour, Finesse, and Charm. For each you’ll roll a d12 and a d6 and add them together. High is better, 10 is average. 

Hands a character sheet to each player. They start rolling their ability scores. 

Tal: Okay, so I got Vigour 11, Finesse 14, Charm 7. 

Moss: I got Vigour 6! Urgh. At least my Finesse and Charm are higher, 10 and 12. 

Ref: Yeah that’s pretty bad! Don’t worry though, just means you’ll need to be crafty and not rely on brute force. The scores might get better later too as your character ages. There’s this rule where… Actually, scrap  that for now. You need to roll d6 for your Guard. This is how good you are at avoiding getting hit or taking lasting damage. 

Tal: Okay, 3, I guess that’s okay.

Moss: I got 6! Guess I’m crafty like you said. 

Ref: Okay now you each get to be one of these Knights.

Ref fans through the book, showing some of the entries for Knights.

Ref: The book says you can choose from here or roll. What do you think?

Moss: Obviously we should roll.

Tal: Oh I dunno, I don’t want to be stuck with a character I don’t like.

Ref: Okay how about we roll, but if you hate what you get then we’ll just choose instead. 

Tal: Yeah, thanks. 

They both roll Knights, getting the Moss and Talon knights. 

Tal: I get a bird? I’ll stick with this one!

Ref: Great, so this gives you some gear and a special thing you can do. Let’s get it onto your character sheets and we can get started. 


When getting the players started with the game I like to get them rolling their character as soon as possible, before I even start telling them about the world. The things they discover in making their character will get them immersed in the world right away.

It’s good that Ref gives a bit of context for Ability Scores. If you’ve played a lot of RPGs it’s easy to assume that everybody will work out the average of d6+d12, but just telling the players that 10 is average gives them a point of reference for their character.

Getting bad rolls here can be disheartening, so it’s good to see Ref reassuring Moss that their low Vigour score isn’t going to make their character useless.

We can see that Ref almost goes into explaining the rules for characters ageing, and how their Ability Scores can increase, but decides not to overload the players right now. At this point it’s enough for the players to know that their scores can change later, they don’t need to know the details while they’re focused on their character in the here and now. 

On our very first example, Ref is already breaking the rules. The character creation process says nothing about letting the characters roll a Knight and then decide whether to keep them or roll a different entry instead, but Ref sees that Tal is feeling anxious about getting a character they don’t like and decides to give the players the best of both worlds.

Ref could have stood firm, insisting that Tal either rolls a character or chooses one, but instead Ref took the chance that Tal would probably be happy with their character, but would appreciate the backup option if they didn’t like the Knight they rolled.

This can go the other way, with some players finding it too much choice to be handed a list of 72 Knights to choose from, so would rather take the roll. A huge part of the Referee’s role is sensing the best option for their group. If in doubt, just ask the players and trust them to be reasonable. 



Tal: Okay, now the rules?

Ref: So this is a bit more complex than Into the Odd, but the core is the same. Wait, were you both here when we played that?

Tal: Yeah I think I remember all the rules.

Moss: Wait, no, I missed that week.

Ref: Okay I’ll start from scratch then. When you do something risky I’ll ask you to roll a Save, so you’ll roll a d20 and try to get equal or less than the Ability Score. So Moss if you made a Vigour Save you’d need to roll 6 or less on a d20.

Moss: Got it.

Ref: Combat is… you know what we’ll deal with combat when it happens. For now you just need to know that the die type next to your weapon is the die you roll when you attack with it. So Moss your Cudgel does d6 damage. Oh, and you have a Shield which gives you Armour 1, meaning you’ll take 1 less damage from attacks against you.

Moss: Right. Does my bad Vigour score make my attacks weaker too?

Ref: No actually. There are times in combat when it will matter, but it won’t affect your attacks.

Moss: Oh right, that’s good then.

Ref scans over some of the other pages of rules  and prepared notes. 

Ref: Yeah the rest we’ll just deal with as we get to it. I’ll give you plenty of warning so I won’t just drop a horrible rule on you!

Tal: What are these things on my sheet? I’ve got Burdens and Feats.

Ref: Right, right. Burdens are bad, you don’t want to have them but sometimes you’ll get them! We’ll deal with them when they happen. Your Feat is a special thing that only you can do. There are some other ones linked to combat but… you know what let’s just get started and we’ll do a little combat brief when it happens. 

Moss: Sounds good, let’s go. 


Here I’ll show my bias toward getting the game started as soon as you can, backloading as much of the rules explanation as possible.

The game is designed in such a way that players don’t need to know all of the rules to begin with, but there are some important considerations with this approach.

Players may be relieved that they don’t need to learn rules immediately, but some may worry that they’re going to make a critical mistake without knowing all of the details of how the game works. 

Here Ref starts with the bare minimum, explaining how Saves work. This is a nice rule to start with as it’s very simple and gives further context for the information on the players’ character sheets. They get a little bogged down talking about weapons and armour, and frankly I think Ref could have skipped this whole section, sticking to the line that combat will be explained when it happens. 

It’s natural for players to ask about other parts of their character sheet that they don’t yet understand, here the Burdens and Feats. Ref could have just said “we’ll deal with that later” but here I like that they at least gave the context for those things, if not the actual rules in detail. Now Tal understands what those things are, but hasn’t needed to learn exactly how they work in game terms. 

Something that Ref missed here is explaining the objective of the characters. In this game the Oath gives Knights a very clear purpose, so I would encourage Ref to at least explain the Oath and warn the players that they’ll be judging themselves on their adherence to it at the end of the session. 

The conversational style of writing is a tricky one, and the potential for cringe is high, but I'm hopeful that I can make this into something useful for potential referees. 


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Universal Creature Profile

It was fun playing around with another type of Universal Profile last week, so let's keep it rolling. Can we make this work for creatures?

Roll 5d6, drop the highest, then read the remaining dice in order as:

Bone: How much hard structure does this thing have?
Flesh: How much soft stuff does this thing have?
Senses: How acute are its senses?
Brain: How intelligent is it?

1=1: A Bit
2=2: Some
3=3: Lots
4=N: Null, actively none, perhaps by design
5=H: Hazardous, not through lack or excess but the nature of the thing
6=S: Super, off the scale. Think big then go bigger.


32H2 - Chitinous bug creature. It hijacks the senses of nearby creatures, severely limiting the victims own senses during this time, causing permanent damage if the bug isn't hunted down and driven out of the victim's head. 

211H - Scrawny little wretches, fumbling around in the light of their hazardous lanterns, but crafty enough to have learned to use local wildlife to their advantage. If you find yourself beset by hostile encounters, perhaps one of these is pulling the strings in the shadows.

HN21 - A monster made entirely of bristling bone spines, tipped with paralysing  venom. Simple minded scavenger that generally wants leaving alone, but won't hesitate to drive away competition for its carrion.

3S33 - Hulking ogre-like creature, as big as their mountain. They understand their realm better than anybody else, but more content to delegate work to their minions while they enjoy the fruits of their success. Frustrated by being surrounded by idiots. 

Art by Midjourney


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Universal Borough Profile

I've had a week off, enjoying/surviving Paris, one of my favourite cities to visit. To go full cliché, it's a city of many halves, each one beautiful and terrifying in its own way. Shades of Bastion everywhere. 

Looking back at my Universal Hex Profile, let's see if we can refit it to generate a Borough of Bastion. 


Roll 5d6, drop the highest, then read the remaining dice in order as:

Climb: How wrecked are your legs after a day walking here?
Code: How screwed are outsiders without a guide?
Crush: How tightly packed is everyone/everything?
Crap: How much filth is lying around?

1=1: A Bit
2=2: Some
3=3: Lots
4=N: Null, actively none, perhaps by design
5=H: Hazardous, not through lack or excess but the nature of the thing
6=S: Super, off the scale. Think big then go bigger.


S132 - The ultra-vertical high-stacked Borough taken to its extreme, pushing through the smog and the clouds, mostly welcoming for the tightly packed crowds of tourists, leaving piles of rubbish in their wake. 

3NN3 - Residential buildings and heaps of industrial waste both piled high, but now walled up as an insurance write-off. Nobody can live here anymore, and visitors only permitted under armed escort. Any valuables found within are used to help pay off the Borough's debts. Perhaps one day it'll break even again. 

H212 - Built on the broken ground of a failed urban mine, getting from one street to another often requires ropes and spikes. Because of that, most of the residents came from mountainous regions of Deep Country, bringing their spiky dialect with them. Not much in the way of public services, but nice to escape the crowds. 

311N - Concentric spirals of paved steps, or funicular if you can afford it. The streets are clean, spacious, and well signed. When you see a Borough like this you have to ask why more people don't live here. Cost might be a factor, but there's usually something more sinister too. 


Art by Midjourney

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Rolling Back a Decade

This week's post has been largely replaced by being away on holiday. I'm back now but putting things up a week early on Patreon really messes with the post-time continuum. 

So while I'm (not) away, let's break time even further by travelling back ten years, when Into the Odd was being playtested, unaware of its bright future. 

Two old posts condensed into one. 

In Favour of Static Saves

You might notice a big change in the current edition of Into the Odd.

Saves are now "roll equal or under the appropriate stat". Nothing modifies this roll.

Here's my reasoning.

I want players to be fully informed of the risks they take.

A character with DEX 7 now knows that they'll have to roll 7 or less on a d20 to pass a DEX Save. No matter what. They won't be asking you what number they'd have to Save against when considering their actions. All the data they need to make an informed choice is on their own character sheet.

The game advises Referees to warn players when their actions will lead to a Save. Saves occur as a result of a choice or action.

These factors should combine to make the DEX 7 player do whatever they can to avoid DEX Saves. No leaping across that pit unless it's a safe jump. Better yet, let's find a way to bridge the gap or go in another direction.

The changes should also eliminate the unpleasant surprise a Save can bring. Imagine this.

A STR 12 character is fighting a corrupt guard. They take a big hit, run out of HP and find out their opponent has STR 17.

The Referee said the guy looked burly, but STR 17?

Using the old system, the player must now roll 15 or more to avoid being incapacitated and possible killed. I love deadly combat, but this could come out of nowhere.

I don't want players to be thinking about the STR score of their opponents or working out probabilities during combat. Having static Saves greatly reduces the amount of numeric data you're factoring into the decision and lets you focus on the situation.

D&D was pretty close to having static saves all the way up to third edition, and that seemed to work just fine. Of course, saves were often modified for tougher circumstances, which I won't be doing.

So, let's get this straight. A STR 10 character has a 50% chance to avoid Critical Damage from both a stick-waving street urchin and a Timeless Horror from Beyond?


The Urchin is beating his stick for d4 damage. He has a handful of hp and you can knock him down without much thought.

The Astral Horror is lashing out for d12 damage, warps your form into a tortured abomination with each hit and constantly barrages you with mind control effects. Your swords and bullets glean off its shadowy hide, turning your weapons ice cold. Even if you find something that can hurt it, it has dozens of hp and is going to make a few Saves before you can bring it down.

I'm not worried about the Astral Horror not being scary.

Why Don't I Get Better At Fighting?

For the mundane Into the Odd character, not interested in Arcana, you hit a peak of offensive ability quite early on.

Get yourself a set of Modern Armour and a Field Weapon. Congratulations, you're dishing out 1d6+1 damage and ignoring a point of damage against you from each attack. That's about as good as things get. No, you don't get an attack bonus as you level. No, your high STR doesn't give you a damage bonus. No, you don't gain feats and powers.

Sucks, right?

What advancement really does is give you the opportunity to fight smarter. There are a few ways this works. 

  • You have more hitpoints, letting you stay in the fight for longer. You can't fight if you're dead.
  • Your Ability Scores will increase a little. This lets you pass Saves to avoid nasty monster effects and makes risky combat manoeuvres more viable.
  • If you're on a battlefield, and of any real importance, you should be on a horse. The armour and damage bonus here is quite a big deal.
  • You've been gathering riches this whole time. Even if you don't carry your cannon everywhere, you might have a small army or a galleon that can fire broadsides at your more persistent enemies. At the very least you should know when to take your elephant gun, fire oil and bombs with you on expeditions.
  • Even if you aren't using Arcana to cast Spells, you'll have gathered a bunch of weird stuff along the way. You have a potion that turns you into the Hulk, a thermal detonator and a glass jar containing some sort of intelligent lightning bolt. When things get tough, each one of these could save you. 

These are all very deliberate design decisions. One of the main goals of Into the Odd is to take the focus away from the character sheet. There really isn't much on there. Three Ability Scores that you only use for Saves, your hitpoints, and a bunch of gear. 

But you want to be Legolas with Flintlock Pistols, blasting away dozens of foes each turn. I'm not saying you can't make your mark on the battlefield, but it isn't all about damage output.

Legolas was only able to fight like that because he had five times the hitpoints of Joe Averagelf and rolled well on his STR and DEX scores. Joe can stab an orc with twin daggers just as easily, but gets an axe buried in his back on the next turn. Legolas has the luxury of surviving long enough to look cool before shield-surfing to safety. He's grabbing a short rest off-camera while his hp recover.

Shooting guys with his bow while he shield-surfs? Good job he has such a high DEX, or he'd have found himself plummeting into the orc horde for trying something so stupid.

Advancement in Into the Odd doesn't give you huge damage output and cinematic combat abilities. It gives you the survivability that you need to be able to act heroically.

Just remember, you're still going to fail Saves. Is climbing on top of the elephant really worth what will happen if you fall down into the beast's path?

Monday, 27 February 2023

MAC Attack Playthrough

This week I've done a little run-through of MAC Attack. An ideal place to jump in if you're curious about Mech fighting games. 

And now I'm off on holiday for a week! Next week we'll get back to normal. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Why are you still here?

I've spoken about this before, but I like to periodically look through a game and ask each individual rule "why are you still here?"

But don't get complacent. Even if a rule has justified its place before, things have probably changed. 

BUT also don't get bloodthirsty. I know I've boasted of my love of ludocide, but I've been guilty of going too far. Sometimes the situation has changed, but the rule still has a place.

Bastiard newspapers with a bias toward rigorous rulesetting often depict me as an executioner, butcher, or assassin.

 Less theory, more practice. Here are a couple of recent examples from the workshop. 

Mythic Bastionland - Burden Exposure

Burdens are one of Mythic Bastionland's big rules changes from EB and ITO. You'll sometimes gain a Burden because things went badly, or as the cost to perform a heroic feat. Each has a specific way to remove it, so Fatigue is removed when you get a hot meal and proper rest. If you have the maximum 3 Burdens then you're Exposed, acting as if you had 0 Guard (equivalent to HP in this game). 

The idea is that Burdens are bad, but they're going to happen, so the Knights should have one eye on ways to remove those that they take on, and consider when it's worth exerting themselves. 

So what's changed since I wrote the Burden rules?

There's now greater focus on Feats, things that Knights can do to give themselves an advantage in combat, or protect themselves from death, at the cost of a Burden. They can only do these if they aren't already at full Burden capacity. 

It's created a bit of a double jeopardy situation, where the idea of "you're vulnerable when fully Burdened" is applied in two different ways:

Firstly through being Exposed when you have 3 Burdens.

Secondly through being unable to use the Endure Feat when you have 3 Burdens, a common way of cheating death. 

I haven't drawn a verdict on this one yet, as these double jeopardy situations aren't  innately a bad thing, it's just worth sticking a flag in it. 

MAC Attack - Preferred  Weapon Ranges

Weapons in MAC Attack typically looked like this: Cannon (K): S2 L1

This shows the Attack Value of the weapon at each of its effective ranges. Here it has AV2 at Short Range and AV1 at Long Range. These range categories are universal for all weapons. The K notes that it's a Kinetic weapon, which grants a special rule for that weapon type.

This was written at a time when all weapons generated 1 Heat when fired. Bigger MACs could carry more weapons and the heatsinks that allowed them to keep firing, so tended to have a bigger output. 

So what's changed since then?

I added bigger versions of each weapon, typically boosting their AV at the cost of generating more Heat. I also cut down on the number of range categories in the game, so now there was just Short, Long, and Arc for indirect fire. 

Crucially, MACs were also standardised with 6 module slots. Bigger models got their advantages through better heat management and resilience. To give some options for these big MACs I added further tiers of "big gun" that could be equipped, giving greater damage for a higher heat cost. 

So you might  have that Cannon (K): S2 L1 from before alongside an XL-Cannon (K): S3 L2 and even an Ultra-Cannon (K): S4 L3. 

Here it's not so much a case of any one of those rules clashing with the existing system, but with an increasing number of options to differentiate weapons, did they really need to list how effective they were at two different range bands? 

The range bands were tweaked to be a little less restrictive, and now weapons simply listed the single range at which they can attack, the type of damage it causes, and its Calibre which dictates both AV and Heat usage. 

So that Cannon becomes Cannon: LK2. Long range, Kinetic Weapon, Calibre 2. 

Side benefit, this reads like a Battletech style model-number, so can be written as LK2 Heavy Cannon or ST3 Macro-Burner instead. You can give it whatever name you like as long as the code is there. 

One rule lives for now, another is reborn in a new form. Who says I'm not fair to these poor blighters.

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

The Battle of Bastionland

I've been jumping around between various wargames lately, so it's perhaps a good time to take stock of where we're at:

The Doomed

Pre-orders are cropping up for this now, so I'm doing various articles and podcasts in anticipation for the launch. Expect to be sick of seeing and hearing me very soon. 

1x1 Horse & Musket

Last week I recorded this playthrough of the rules, though I should note the specifics have changed slightly since then. 

Great clickbait title, right?

In practical terms I've sort of got what I wanted out of this. Everything needed for a big battle fits in a tiny box and I'm looking forward to dropping it on unsuspecting opponents.

Not to say I won't keep messing with it. I've got Medieval and Modern versions on my workbench but they don't quite work just yet. 

MAC Attack

This one had a big change recently, essentially overhauling the weapon system. I'm really happy with how this one's going, and looking forward to running some more playtests. 

Project 10

Arrgh... my pile of shame!

I've been pretty well disciplined in not buying loads of miniatures until I've painted my current lot, but the 10mm units I bought for Project 10 are the clear exception. Years later I have 5 units completed out of... 14 that I need to actually run a game. 

I have a good handful of little 10mm medieval guys just waiting to join the fray, but for now they're going to have to sit tight. 

Still, the system works, and I enjoyed playtesting it with cards last year, but for now this one holds a degree of shame. 

Battle of Bastionland

Okay, so this one is new, and it's what you clicked onto this post for, so what's the deal?

Looking over the wargames I had in various stages of completion I had:
  • The Doomed for warband level skirmishes and monster fighting
  • Project 10 for classic fantasy regiments wheeling around the field
  • 1x1 for grand scale battles on a tiny board
  • MAC Attack for 6mm sci-fi with mechs, tanks, and infantry squads
There's an obvious gap there for something involving a handful of squads, but still basing each soldier individually. Perhaps something with a bit more Morale and Command & Control than my other efforts. I think those in the know would call it large skirmish

I mean I could just play a pre-existing game but where's the fun in that?

But let me wear my influences on my sleeve:
  • NUTS! really grabbed me in its back-and-forth combat flow and feel of having a toolbox full of toys, but it's also a little obtuse for me to fully grok. I fear it's doomed to be one of those games that I love the idea of rather than the reality. 
  • Turnip28 wallows in the grime of gunpowder era war and has a nice simple core. 
  • Xenos Rampant has been great fun the few times I've played. I like the modular units and the way morale is handled, but there's a lingering dissatisfaction in how some of the specific units perform. Careful choice of armies and scenarios can remedy this, but it feels like a missed opportunity.
  • I'm on a real binge for just about anything from Nordic Weasel right now. 
And of course I wanted to try and fit all of the actual rules of play on a single page which... I kinda did? Okay give me two pages then so we can keep the line breaks. 

So some of the specifics of Battle for Bastionland?
  • It's all about Smoke, Mud, and Blood. Your squads will amass all three as the war wears away at their humanity, if they started with any. 
  • You pick 3 squads from the list, each having 6 or 12 individual members depending on how big a battle you want to do. This means your full Company is either 18 or 36 miniatures in total.
  • Oh, but that's their full strength and not all of them will actually show up for battle. Latecomers might appear later, but don't bank on it. 
  • Squad type gives you a fancy ability, and each squad leader is a Corporal who chooses their own individual advantage.
  • EXCEPT one squad leader is actually your overall Captain, and they choose an ability that's actually a disadvantage. Who put this donkey in command?
  • Kitbash Attitude is in full effect, with all of Bastion's variety on show. You'll probably want a gun that looks like it's from WW2 or earlier, but other than that go wild. Bring muskets, helmets, and the tallest hats you can muster. 
  • Order Dice are rolled at the start of your turn, meaning you won't always be able to achieve exactly what you want. You get some Reaction Dice on your opponent's turn too, so pay attention to their movements.